I think most people probably do not pack their boat and paddle for their honeymoon – but Scott and I had our hearts set on a destination which we had been wanting to visit for a very long time – the mighty Zambezi! The river starts at the bottom of the famous Victoria falls, and runs through a deep gorge – forming the border between two countries – on your river left you have Zambia and on river right you have Zimbabwe. At the start of each day you walk down the steep sides of the gorge, including sometimes on a series of wooden ladders, to get to the river side, and at the end of each day you have to walk out again.
Could I go to the Zambezi?
The river is suitable for class 3 paddlers, as long as you have a solid roll! Do not be put off though if you are looking for more challenges. There are certainly class 5 rapids, but they are easily portaged. Lots of the other rapids have a class 3 line – but if you want to challenge yourself, you can go for the harder line. Unlike the Nile, you are in a remote environment, and the days are always big days – with a long walk in and out, and long periods of paddling – so you do need to be fit as the days are tiring. Best of all, the water is warm and the weather is warm.
Why go to the Zambezi?
This is one of the world’s classic big volume rivers. It is in a beautiful gorge, with incredible wildlife (watch out for the crocs!) Most importantly of all, you don’t have long left – the dam is already under construction, so soon it will all be gone!
When should I go?
The river is theoretically open all year to kayakers, but in reality there is often a closed season when commercial raft companies don’t operate during the high water season which varies but is generally between the end of February and June. In June the water is high and drops gradually until the next high water season. We went in October, which is one of the lowest times – this means that you are in with a good chance of getting the playwave at 12B.
Which boat should I take?
This really depends on you! If you are going to be pushing your river running ability, you should take a boat you are confident in, and a creek boat would be absolutely called for in some cases. If you are a hard core playboater who only lives for the next wave, take your trusty playboat. For everyone else, a river/play boat is the perfect vessel of choice – something short enough to surf those catch on the fly waves, but given that it is not a park and play destination, something to give you speed to get those sweet lines on the rapids too!
What would you recommend?
Our highlight was a four-day multi-day trip. Sleeping in this incredibly beautiful gorge under the stars was just the experience of a life-time. Best of all, you did not have to walk in and out each day!
Some of the local wildlife
Another catch-on-the-fly playwave
One of our camping spots on our multi-day